Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Writen Evidence from Dr Tim Stowe, Director, RSPB Cymru


  We are grateful that you have agreed to receive a late submission to your Inquiry into Energy in Wales. Following the Welsh Assembly Government's request to the DTI that a Severn barrage be re-examined, we feel that it is important to set out our views on this proposal for consideration under your inquiry. We have attached a short paper on the RSPB Cymru's position on a Severn barrage, which has been sent as an addendum to our more detailed response on the wider DTI Energy Review.

  Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to diodiversity and RSPB Cymru supports energy generation in ways that minimise greenhouse gas emissions. However, we are very concerned that a Severn barrage would have an irreversible and serious adverse impact on the internationally important habitats and species present in the Severn estuary, including the 65,000 waterfowl that winter there. We do not believe that such a development would pass the test srequired under the Habitats Directive, particulary as we believe there are alternatives to this project. Additionally, we are sceptical of the overall benefits that are claimed by proponents of the Severn barrage and believe that energy generation from this project is not an option that would be compatible with UK Government and Assembly commitments to sustainable development.

  Our position on a Severn barrage is informed by the wider UK energy picture, our views on which are set out in detail in our response to the DTI Energy Review. We would be happy to provide a copy of our full submission to this consultation, but we are aware that brevity is of the essence, given that you have all but finished hearing evidence on your Inquiry. I have therefore summarised the relevant key messages of our response below.

    —  UK energy policy has the central role in ensuring that greenhouse gas emissions are cut to the extent required by current scientific evidence on climate change.

    —  We strongly support the approach of the 2003 UK Government Energy White Paper, which set out the need to focus on a prioritised hierarchy of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable sources of supply. We believe that this approach now needs to be appropriately resourced in order that government energy and emission targets can be met.

    —  We consider that the UK's long term emission reduction target, or a more stringent one, can be met by a combination of demand side management coupled with renewable technologies, perhaps augmented in the medium term by carbon capture and storage.

    —  The UK Government's commitments towards biodiversity conservation and international obligations under the Birds and Habitats Directives must not be undermined in delivering renewables, if a sustainable approach to carbon reduction is to be achieved.

    —  There is considerable evidence that there is sufficienty renewables capacity, including micro-generation, together with energy efficiency and demand reduction to achieve the necessary carbon savings from the energy sector without having to affect adversely important wildlife sites.

    —  In our opinion the UK has in place a suite of policies and measures that form a sound basis both for meeting our long term (2050) emission reduction targets and achieving security and diversity of supply.

  I am sure the Committee will be aware that the 2003 Energy White Paper effectively shelved the Severn Barrage proposal on grounds of substantial environmental impact and disporportionate cost. We do not see that anything has changed significantly since 2003 to justify repeating earlier feasibility studies.

17 May 2006

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